The lead-in to the death and resurrection of Jesus is hotting up. Mary’s anointing of Jesus leads to Judas, one of Jesus’ intimate circle of disciples, objecting to the apparent waste of the precious perfume. So John prepares his readers for Judas’ final betrayal of Jesus. What a heart-breaking grief this must have been to Jesus who loved his disciples so deeply! And still today Jesus must be weeping when Christians lose their love and faith in him.
These verses end with the contrast of faith and murderous opposition. Wonderfully we read that “many of the Jews were going over to him and putting their faith in him”, but at the same time the chief priests made plots to kill Jesus and also Lazareth (12.9-11).
The other gospels give us some additional insights. In Luke’s Gospel the story of the anointing of Jesus’ feet (Luke 7.36ff.) is used to demonstrate the depth of love when a sinner is forgiven. The greater one’s sin, the more one will love Jesus with eternal gratitude when cleansed from one’s sin. The forgiven sinner can indeed “go in peace” (Luke 7.50) – how glorious this is!
Matthew and Mark join John in emphasizing that Jesus’ anointing foreshadows his coming death and burial. It is noteworthy that the very Jewish Matthew also strongly emphasizes the Gentiles. Whereas John does not mention it at all, in Matthew and Mark the climax of the story comes with Jesus’ words that “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26.13). So Mark also foresees Jesus’ burial and concludes his account of the event with the same words that the story of the woman’s great love would be told throughout the coming history and wherever the gospel is preached (Mark 14.9).